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With its wealth of inspiration to draw from, it’s no surprise that Disney films are often peppered with Easter eggs for its legions of adoring fans to discover.
Supposedly coined by Atari employee Warren Robinett back in the 1970s, the term Easter eggs refers to a reference or in-joke hidden within a scene, likely only to be spotted by the most eagle-eyed and devoted viewers.
While animators had been hiding jokes in their frames for decades, the practice truly caught on with the advent of the internet – with fans able to share their finds far more easily than before.
They’re now favoured by moviemakers as a means to enrich a story, engage and impress fans, and help to strengthen the sense of films’ shared universe by adding an additional level of connectivity between each title.
But it isn’t always that exact a science. Although it has been confirmed that Pixar movies – but not yet Disney films – take place in the same universe, this hasn’t stopped characters and references from crossing over into either studio’s films.
Here are some of the most notable Easter eggs to be found:
During the 1961 film’s iconic Midnight Bark scene, as dogs across London loudly spread the news of the stolen puppies, the title characters of 1955’s Lady and the Tramp can be seen strolling the capital’s streets.
In the opening scene of the 1940 film, two books’ titles are visible – Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.
And here’s Collette from Ratatouille cooking up a storm on the cover of a magazine while Riley pretends the floor is lava in 2015’s Inside Out.
The 1992 film is well-stocked with Easter eggs. Firstly in the scene where Jafar tells the Sultan that he should choose Jasmine a husband if she has not chosen her own in the allotted time, you can spot the Beast in his pile of toys.
And one fan theory suggests that the reference is reversed in Beauty and the Beast, which was released the previous year. It has been suggested that Belle is *almost* detailing the plot of Aladdin when she describes her favourite book, saying: “Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise.”
And the Beast is not the only rogue character to make an appearance in Aladdin. In the scene where Aladdin asks the genie to turn him into a prince, he conjures up Pinocchio and Sebastian the lobster from under the sea.
Beauty and the Beast
At one point, Belle’s father comes to a crossroads. While all of the places on the suitably weathered old signpost are actually Californian cities – Saugus, Newhall, Valencia and Anaheim – the final two are the locations of Walt Disney’s CalArts school and Disneyland, respectively.
If you think the four vultures who comfort Mowgli with a charming number called “That’s What Friends Are For” are suspiciously reminiscent of an iconic Liverpudlian quartet who revolutionised popular music at the advent of the 1960s, then you’d be right.
Those behind the 1967 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s book initially approached The Beatles to partake in the film, but this was not to be the case – either as a result of clashing schedules or, as rumours have it, because John Lennon vetoed the idea, saying to manager Brian Epstein to tell Disney they’d be better off trying to hire Elvis Pressley.
And according to Jon Favreau, he too was rebuffed by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr when he approached them to take part in his 2016 remake.
In a nod to the lead animator for both characters, Andreas Deja, the Greek hero can be seen wearing Scar’s pelt – with the villainous Lion King character still managing to appear menacing while being used as a face rub by Philoctetes and casually discarded.
The Black Cauldron
Known by some as the film that nearly sunk the franchise following Walt’s death, the Black Cauldron’s dark, trippy visuals are inhabited at one point by Tinker Bell – with Peter Pan’s winged ally among the fairies to greet the main character Taran and his friends.
It’s not just misunderstood “thugs” who Rapunzel and Flynn encounter at the Snuggly Duckling pub. Pinocchio is also hanging out on a ledge watching over the proceedings as the pubgoers sing “I’ve Got A Dream”.
Some Tangled fans have also noticed that Rapunzel has painted homages all around her house to other Disney heroines. There’s an apple for Snow White, a slipper for Cinderella, a seashell for The Little Mermaid’s Ariel and a rose for Beauty and the Beast’s Elle.
Towards the end of the film, as Woody and Buzz are trying to catch up with the family’s moving van, Andy and his family are listening to “Hakuna Matata” on the radio.
Toy Story 2
At one point in the 1999 sequel, Mrs Potato Head can be seen reading about A Bug’s Life, which was released the previous year.
Toy Story 3
In the theatrical trailer for Toy Story 3, some sharp-eyed viewers have pointed out that, hidden on the bulletin board in Andy’s room, is a postcard from Carl and Ellie Fredricksen – the couple from Up. While their message is obscured, their address is just visible – but was later hidden in the final edit.
Up came out the year before Toy Story 3.
The Princess and the Frog
In the 2009 film’s opening scene, which gives viewers to a morning montage of New Orleans, you can spot one resident dusting off Aladdin’s magic carpet from their balcony.
Hunchback of Notre Dame
One of the many gargoyles on Notre Dame appears to bear a striking resemblance to the Lion King’s Pumbaa – which can be spotted during the film’s climax as Quasimodo and Esmerelda treacherously swing from the cathedral’s exterior.